What’s Really Going On With Twitter?
The Cultural Role, The Criticism, and our Conclusion
You probably noticed that the Presidential election was a serious boon for Twitter. Not a day went by where a trending election hashtag or rogue presidential-nominee tweet didn’t make national — sometimes global — news. Now, a little over a week out from the announcement that Donald Trump is, in fact, the next president-elect, the dust has settled. And the reality of Twitter as part our of daily lives has returned to normal. Or has it?
In 2006, Twitter established itself as one of the most influential social media platforms. They invented “brevity” as a way to communicate. They invented the hashtag. They gave previously untouchable celebrities a place to connect with their fans. And they ultimately gave users the ability to directly engage with their favorite publishers, brands, and news outlets. Early adopters were tweeting well before the creation of promoted trends, emojis and far before the promoted moment.
Fast-forward to 2016, and Twitter is being diagnosed and questioned almost every day — from stagnant audience growth and criticisms of its business value, to restructuring and more recent talks of acquisition from big companies like Google and Salesforce. Marketers and consumers alike are going through a “he loves me, he loves me not” phase with Twitter right now.
But we think there are still many reasons to #KeepTheTweet.
Do People Still Love Twitter?
For regular users of the platform, the answer is a resounding “yes.” Audience size and growth concerns about Twitter have been trending topics among technology publications for a long time. Some have even translated “decline in audience growth” to the platform having little active users. According to Hootsuite, Twitter ranked at around 80 million users this past March. Additionally, about 20% of the entire U.S. adult population still uses Twitter. Other common misconceptions revolve around Twitter no longer being the “cool” tool for both younger and older millennials. On the contrary, 27% of Twitter users are 18 to 29 and 25% of Twitter users are 30 to 49.
The bottom line? People are still using Twitter, and the young folks haven’t entirely disengaged. The question brands should be asking is: how are they using it now?
Connecting Conversation to Culture
Twitter ignites when a cultural zeitgeist takes hold. It remains the only social network where you can read firsthand what influencers, news outlets, and bloggers are saying, in real time. Take the Taylor Swift and Kimye feud, for example. Twitter was the place fans (and shade throwers alike) logged in to see what the celebs were saying, who was taking sides and how the antics would escalate. On a more serious note — Twitter is now the first place where world crises, breaking news, and high-profile events are covered — with users and journalists alike covering the action, sharing updates and streaming live video.
Brands can borrow this real-time equity to make their content resonate. Whether it’s jumping into relevant conversations, interacting directly with consumers in the moment or creating campaigns around big cultural events like the Super Bowl and TV premieres, Twitter still has the lead as the real-time purveyor of content and national — sometimes global — conversation. The platform has rightfully been coined the “arbiter of cultural relevance,” for a reason.
Living In the Moment with Live Video
While Facebook may have greater reach, Twitter has proven itself to be the trailblazer for real-time watching. The first presidential debate of 2016 was live-streamed through Twitter. Users tuned in to see what the candidates were saying, in conjunction with what others around the globe were saying about #debatenight. With the acquisition of Periscope, Twitter capitalized on their unique ability to connect live video with real-time conversations. Twitter as the “second screen” is quickly becoming a thing of the past. When it comes to cultural moments, Twitter is often the first and only screen.
New Ways for Consumers To Express Themselves
Twitter was ahead of its time with Vine, which they’ve sadly decided to derail. But they haven’t given up on users’ ability to create. Take their latest integrations: stickers, emojis, scratchreel, custom pre-roll, etc. Social platforms are constantly challenged with user attention spans exponentially declining, so Twitter developed some flashy new toys. Products like stickers, custom emoji and the GIF keyboard were designed to bring more users to the platform — specifically younger audiences.
So, if people still do care about Twitter, why are brands still on the fence?
Twitter’s Ad Minimum Conundrum
When it comes to measuring mid-funnel business goals, Twitter is a challenge to pitch. Marketers find themselves in an endless cycle of wanting to test Twitter as a partner who could move the needle, but minimum investments for brand studies are hard to meet (can be in the $300–500k level). Without the learnings provided through a brand study, it’s difficult to prove that Twitter is an essential channel in pushing business goals.
As advertisers and brands get smarter about social, Twitter would be smart to help them prove that the platform is able to achieve both media and business goals at more realistic investment levels. Every campaign should start with a collaborative effort between agency, brand, and Twitter to define what success looks like and how we’ll know it when we see it.
Twitter Is A Troll Factory
Cyber-bullying is a big deterrent for both current Twitter users and people interested in creating an account. This week, Twitter announced they will be tackling the recent spike in online abuse on their platform by rolling out new features that will allow users to mute notifications based on keywords, phrases, and conversations. The team at Twitter assures users they are taking online harassment extremely seriously, and in addition to these updates, have retrained their support team to be more agile in tackling these issues. Trolls have troubled many users (celebrities and average users alike) and Twitter is ready to battle this evil.
Twitter Is Best In the Moment
The truth is, Twitter is its own animal and cannot be fairly compared to other platforms. Twitter was a leader in social innovation, forcing giants like Facebook to steal the coveted trending topics feature — not to mention the news feed itself. When it comes to real-time content, live video, one-on-one engagement and customer service, Twitter should be the go-to platform.
Our take? Twitter can be used differently for brands, depending on business goals. Before recommending Twitter as a channel priority, brands need to figure out what they’re trying to accomplish and how they’re measuring campaign success. Once the world (and perhaps Twitter itself) realizes Twitter’s differentiator, more videos will be watched, more trends will be talked about and more people will be compelled to create an account to join the conversation and #KeepTheTweet.
Originally featured on Huffington Post
Justin Ollivierre, Social Strategist, DigitasLBi Chicago